Seven candidates are on the ballot for regular terms on the Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees.
Candidates include Evelyn Criswell, Thomas G. Earp, Colton J. Gibson, Linda Hoskins Sutton, Janice L. McIntyre, Leslie Smith and Christal Watson. Voters will choose three of the candidates on Nov. 7. None is an incumbent.
At the Oct. 18 candidate forum at KCKCC, Criswell said she had 20 years of business and finance success, expertise and advocacy in key programming, competitive positioning, sustainability, fundraising, financial stewardship and aligning the college with community priorities.
She said the key programs at the college needed to be increased and improved to align with employer needs, particularly in technology, biomed and health care information technology. She said she would ensure the students, community and college played a major role in those technical pipelines. She said she would ensure the college continues its research on best practices for KCKCC compared with other community colleges.
On sustainability, she said she would work with the board and foundation to build out a private donor and alumni database to put a program in place and support it. She foresees a full-fledged program raising several million dollars.
Linda Hoskins Sutton said she is qualified because she retired from the college after 30 years of service in financial services, continuing education and community services, student services and adjunct faculty. She said she could use her expertise and knowledge to serve the college.
“Being on the inside, I could bring a different perspective to the Board of Trustees that could help all of the trustees,” she said.
She said students are her priority, and all decisions made should consider how they would affect the students.
She said she wants the college, the Wyandotte County school districts and community to collaborate and see how they can improve the college readiness of children from kindergarten through 12th grade. Until that is done, they will not realize their potential.
Hoskins Sutton has lived in Wyandotte County for 37 years, and has been a member of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and is a past board member of the Greater Kansas City People to People International. She has received an associate of business degree from a community college in Mississippi and a business administration degree from Baker University.
Leslie Smith said she attended the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools and lived here all her life. She has worked with young adults and senior citizens. She said she has a passion to help others in the community by listening to their concerns.
Smith said she would like to promote the importance of education, rejuvenate the atmosphere of social programs and increase student participation.
Listening to students would have a positive effect, encouraging and empowering the students, she said. Promoting and building relationships with students would be a primary concern of hers, she said.
She added she would like to improve the academic achievement for students.
Tom Earp, who formerly owned two retail businesses here, originally came from Independence, Mo. He graduated from Pittsburg State University and has lived here since the 1960s.
He formerly ran for city council here. He is a former member of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department, working there for seven years. Earp said the campus police are short-handed.
“The community college – we have a gem here, a diamond,” Earp said. “I don’t think it’s been fully utilized.”
He said he supports looking at the child care center at the college, to be reopened. He also said dorms may need to be expanded for out-of-state athletes.
He also said he would like to see credits from the community college transfer to all four-year colleges in the state.
Janice L. McIntyre retired from KCKCC after 33 years. She ran classes and programs for first-semester students, plus college career development work.
McIntyre, who has a doctorate degree in adult education, curriculum and instruction, served on a number of boards for professional organizations that had done research for college success, and how to get students organized.
“My plank is for student success first, student support services and community connections,” McIntyre said.
After retirement, McIntyre came back to KCKCC as a yoga instructor at the Wellness and Fitness Center. She also helped with student career planning and the World of Work Week. McIntyre helped to found the American Association of University Women chapter at KCKCC. She also has written grants and done fundraising.
She is currently teaching at the KCKCC Leavenworth campus and at Harmon High School.
McIntyre said she knows how to make successful programs, how to promote and support people who are in the positions to help students. She said as a board member, she will know how to advocate for students in an organizational structure that will make everyone successful.
Christal Watson, the president and CEO of the Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce, said she knows what it takes to be creative, resourceful, to have a background and experience that enables people to reach specific markets. She said the top thing she does in her job is to build partnerships.
“I will be able to advocate on behalf of the college, build bridges with government, local government, state government and federal government,” she said. She also will be able to build bridges with the community, the neighborhood groups, and with the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools. She is a former Kansas City, Kansas, school board member.
She said it was nice to be noticed at the recent meet-and-greet from the KCKCC Student Senate as “Alan’s mom, B.J.’s mom and Neil’s mom.”
“They can relate to me because of who my children are, but I can relate to them because I have children who are almost grown and I know what it is like for them to be in college,” Watson said. As a former student at KCKCC, it’s like coming home, she added.
She said she has experience in public policy that boards handle, and it is important that board members work together, are cohesive and are on the same page. With changes coming and the new board having three new board members, it will allow a fresh perspective on how to build the mission of the college in a way that not only builds students, but also builds community, she said.
Colton J. Gibson was not at this forum Oct. 18.
Two incumbents who were appointed, Rosalyn K. Brown and Tyrone Garner, are also on the ballot, running for unexpired terms on the KCKCC Board of Trustees. They do not have opposition. Voters may vote for two persons in the unexpired terms category.
Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
For information on voting, see the website, http://www.wycovotes.org/, or voters may call the election office at 913-573-8500.
Three of six Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools Board of Education regular term candidates will be elected at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The candidates include Incumbent Irene Caudillo, Maxine Drew, Wanda Brownlee Paige, Joseph A. Straws III, Stacy Yeager and Maria Cecilia Ysaac.
Caudillo, president and CEO of El Centro, and vice president of the Kansas City, Kansas, school board, went through the Head Start program, and was in a family of nine children who valued education. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. She has two children in the school district. She serves in many community groups, including the Community Housing of Wyandotte County board of directors and Healthy Communities Wyandotte Steering Committee.
Caudillo’s top campaign issue is academic achievement for all students. She favors closing the achievement gap, so every graduate is ready for college and careers.
While the candidates will talk about the challenges the district has, including funding, closing the achievement gap and hiring minority teachers, she said at the forum she wanted also to talk about the success the district has had. That includes a bond issue that 80 percent of the community supported for district buildings, and the Diploma Plus program to help prepare students for college and careers.
Maxine Drew taught 35 years in the Kansas City, Kansas, school district, including 33 years at West Middle School.
“I have come forth to be a voice, not only for the students, parents, teachers, and even for the district,” she said at the candidate forum Oct. 18. “We teach our kids to have a thirst for knowledge, but we have to help them also to the pathway that will lead to a favorable outcome.”
She said she favored transparency, including transparency for parents and staff. Only if they work collectively together can they bring about change, she said.
Maria Cecilia Ysaac, a parent and business owner, ran for school board two years ago and was first runner-up.
“I pledge that I will be a bridge for all parents in our school district, especially those that can’t communicate in English fluently or proficiently,” she said. She will help the parents who don’t speak a second language to engage immigrant families, she said. She favors school events to bring the children and families together.
While it is wonderful that the schools are teaching English and math, she asked if the students are being taught compassion, understanding, success and confidence.
Joseph Straws III said he would try to bridge the gap between the board, administration and the parents.
As a parent of five children, including two graduates of the Kansas City, Kansas, public school district and three others in the district, he said he is a proponent of education. He said he has done extensive volunteer work in the district for 20 years.
“We have got to understand what these students are going through on a daily basis now,” Straws said.
Education has changed, and the board needs to be connected to the ground level of what students are going through, he added.
Stacy Yeager said she is a business owner and mother of students in the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools. She is a graduate of Wyandotte High School, and holds a doctorate degree. She said she wants to put passion back into the legacy that Kansas City, Kansas district has.
“I am passionate about bringing us up to date with technology,” Yeager said.
The district does not have to wait until students are in the upper levels to bring them into contact with technology, and to learn about education and the school board. Students from kindergarten through 12th grade need to see the importance of what the board does, she added.
Wanda Brownlee Paige, who worked in the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools district for 30 years, said she would work for the voters.
“It takes commitment, somebody willing to get up in the trenches, to open any door, we have to make it work,” Paige said. “You’ve got to hold me accountable, I’m going to hold you accountable, I’m going to hold your students accountable.
“It takes accountability to make it work,” she said.
In answer to a question, Paige said the recent Kansas Supreme Court decision on the Gannon case, finding the state inadequately funded public schools, reminded her of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Paige, who has taught history, said the courts in the Brown case said the schools should be integrated with “deliberate” speed. In the Gannon case, the courts gave the Legislature until spring 2018 to come up with a new school finance plan.
“They need to have a special session, they need to deal with the issue,” Paige said. “That’s the problem in our society today, we don’t want to deal with the issue.”
“Our kids can’t afford to lose time, we have to be about the business of giving them the best possible education, effectively, and to use the tax dollars wisely,” Paige said. “It’s not fair for them to say, we’ll give them a little time and in time they’ll get it done. Time just keeps going on and not much is done, and we’re still in the same situation.”
Yeager said not many parents actually know about this delay.
“The reality is, action and accountability would have already resulted in contacting our legislators,” Yeager said. “I do not agree with them pushing it back. I am a strong advocate for writing letters and making phone calls. What needs to be done is additional awareness and call to action.
“The only way we will force their hand is by unity,” Yeager said.
Straws said he did not agree with them pushing back the date for compliance until next spring.
“We should not be getting a different education in Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley and Overland Park, than we do right here in Kansas City, Kansas,” he said. “They’re going to have to make sure we’re getting adequate funding here in KCK.”
Teachers and staff need to know they have job security, and don’t need to hear every year that they don’t know if they’re going to open their doors. “We need to get it fixed, and we need to get it fixed now,” he said.
Ysaac said the best way to make sure schools fail is to cut the budget.
“People are working against us,” she said. “Our legislators have an agenda. They want to get rid of public education. They want to keep certain people down and certain people elevated. We can’t be distracted as far as what’s going on with the budget.”
The residents need to elect people who care about the schools’ success. Schools will need to make do with what they have and not complain, she added. The schools also need to engage businesses in town, working with them, getting grants and providing job opportunities.
Drew said she agreed that the legislators needed to meet and make some changes. It is the students who will suffer because the schools do not have the finances, she said.
“The more we talk about it, the more we have to wait,” Drew said. “Talking about it doesn’t help, but putting some things into place, into action, will bring about a change.”
Caudillo said she is grateful that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the school district, which was one of the plaintiffs in the Gannon case.
“They made the right decision to understand that we are not adequately funded,” she said.
However, she took a practical approach to this issue. Caudillo said she believes that legislators would take from tomorrow until April to figure out the issue, if a special session was called. This might result in a lot of overtime pay for them.
“So are we going to pay legislators to do the work they should have done years ago?” she asked. “We want our legislators to do their job when they’re supposed to do the job, with what we’re paying them and elected them to do.”
The legislators will be considering how to find the revenues for the budget, as well as how it should be spent with a school finance plan. Caudillo said she believes legislators probably will take the whole session to figure it out, completing it in April.
Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-34th Dist., who was in the audience Oct. 18, and who also serves on the school board, said after the forum that only the governor could call a special session, and the Democratic leadership has already asked for one. Public pressure could work toward getting something done.
Rep. Winn said the court’s decision on Oct. 2 came after the school districts had already started their school years. The districts already had a budget in place then. The court’s decision was strongly worded in that it would not give more time than next spring for a legislative plan.
“I know the Legislature understands their seriousness,” Rep. Winn said. “There will be no more playing around. The message was clear.”
The Kansas News Service reported last week that an 11-member legislative committee has been created to meet for three days before the 2018 legislative session starts in January to work on school finance. The panel will work on the foundation for a long-term solution to school finance, according to legislative leaders, the KNS story reported.
Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools, unexpired terms
Four candidates, Rick Behrens, Harold Brown, Janey Humphries and Korri Hall Thompson, are running for two unexpired terms for the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools Board of Education.
Behrens, an incumbent, said at the Oct. 18 candidate forum that he was honored for the past two years to fill the position formerly occupied by the late George Breidenthal. Behrens said he received his education in Wyandotte County.
Behrens spent 35 years as pastor of Grandview Park Presbyterian Church, where he said he supported educational opportunities for youth surrounding the church.
“When the opportunity came to apply for the position to be appointed to the school board, I jumped at it, because I felt it was an opportunity for me to go even deeper into this gift of education that we are to be giving to all of the kids in our community,” he said.
Behrens said diversity is a gift and also a challenge, and there needs to be a way to make teachers more culturally competent. There is a need to find more minority teachers, he added. The board has been discussing this issue. The teaching fellows program is a way to increase the number of teachers who are culturally competent, he said. There is also a need to welcome newcomers in the community, including refugees, he said. The district is now working on a welcome center, he added.
Korri Hall Thompson said education is in her heart, and there are many educators in her family. A graduate of Schlagle High School, she graduated from Kansas State University. She taught at Schlagle and Coronado Middle School for 10 years, and is currently an employee of a federally funded program at the University of Kansas that works with school district students on college preparedness.
“I want to be a leader of this village we call District 500, because it takes a village to raise a child,” she said.
Thompson, who also ran in 2015, said training and education needs to take place to bridge the language barriers in the schools.
Career shadowing, college experiences, the Diploma Plus program are all programs the district can be doing to help students in their future planning, she said.
Better communication with parents is another goal, she said.
Janey Humphries, an incumbent, has lived in the district for 40 years, and has four children who graduated from district schools. Humphries helped raise funds to build the South Branch Library, and also promoted the campaign to pass the district’s bond issue. She has been very active in school organizations, in her neighborhood association, serves as the vice president of a credit union, and is on the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library Foundation.
“A few years ago, Mrs. (Gloria) Willis came up to me at a board meeting and said, Janey, why don’t you run for the open position on the board?” she said.
While she didn’t win the election that time, Humphries applied for an open position after Willis died, and was appointed in April of this year.
“She is like a mentor to me still,” Humphries said. Willis used to ask, “Is this what is best for our children, do our children need this?” Humphries said she asks the same questions, remembering Willis’ dedication to the children.
“Our children of today will be the leaders of our city and country in the future. I believe all children deserve the opportunity to receive a quality education regardless of where they live or which school they attend,” Humphries stated. “They need the academic skills and experiences necessary to compete for the job of their choice in the world economy.”
She stated she supports the Diploma Plus program and the current direction the district is moving in to make sure students are prepared for the future.
Harold Brown, a Wyandotte County resident, attended school here, graduated from Wyandotte High School and received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Washburn University. He received a Master of Business Administration while working in the Los Angeles area.
Brown has four foster children, and said he interfaces with the elementary schools. He is an advocate for the children who are voiceless and need someone to navigate through difficult times, he said.
“We all understand the value in having a good public education,” he said. Education is the foundation from which all have benefited, he said.
Because most of his time has been spent in the private sector, he will look at things a little differently than others on the board, he said.
From a business perspective, the board needs to understand what they’re spending and how they’re using that money, Brown said.
A primary was not required in this contest.
The candidate forum Oct. 18 was sponsored by Business West, with other neighborhood business revitalization groups.
Incumbent Board of Public Utilities member Mary Gonzales and Bryan Messmer are running for the BPU, at large Position 1.
Gonzales said at a candidate forum Oct. 17 that her decisions are based on what is best for the ratepayer and the utility. She said she strives to keep in good communication with constituents.
Gonzales listed goals including: To continue to communicate with business customers and community leaders to support goals and foster economic development; and to continually upgrade their master plan for water and power so that they can identify potential growth and mitigate the aging infrastructure.
Gonzales, a retired teacher, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Montevallo (Alabama) and her master’s degree from Emporia State University. She is serving her fourth term in office.
Messmer said he is running for the BPU board because he wants to be involved in decisions that affect the community.
Messmer is a graduate of Turner High School, with a business background. He owns a local service business that was started by his parents, and owns rental properties.
Messmer said there is a perception that BPU rates are too high, and everything should be done that can be done to reduce rates. He said the rates should not be increased, and the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) fee that the Unified Government has placed on the BPU bills seems to be too high, and needs to be looked at.
Gonzales said she agreed with Messmer that the PILOT is higher than other places, but the PILOT is not controlled by the BPU board, it is controlled by the UG Commission.
“We do need to educate the public a lot more,” Gonzales said. The PILOT here is 11.9 percent, and the national average is about 6 to 7 percent, she said. “I’d love for ours to be lowered, but it is out of our hands.”
Gonzales said the BPU helps consumers spend less by showing them how to save energy.
Gonzales won the primary with 49.2 percent of the vote, and Messmer received 17.3 percent.
To see a video of a candidate forum with more discussion of issues by the Board of Public Utilities candidates, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNsA_9jzXFg.
Board of Public Utilities, at large Position 2
Ryan Eidson and John C. Martindale are running for the Board of Public Utilities, at large Position 2.
Martindale said he was running for BPU because he gets a lot of questions. He said he was an asthmatic, and he wanted cleaner air for everybody. He supports a greener energy future, and jobs it creates. He also wants to reduce rates, he said.
“I want to show people we can all have a hand in doing this,” Martindale said.
Eidson, a Kansas State University graduate, is the general manager for Wil Fischer Companies, and has been in charge of operations there for nine years. Budgeting is part of his work.
“I understand what it takes to deliver a good product at the most reasonable price,” he said.
Eidson said his parents were very involved in the community, and he has followed in their footsteps by serving on the boards of two local charities. With his experience, he said he felt he was qualified to help run the BPU.
Eidson said the most important issue for residents is that BPU rates are too high, and he agreed. While going green and those initiatives are great things, he said it was very expensive.
“With the amount of people in poverty in Wyandotte County, is that the right thing to do?” Eidson asked. If people want to be “all green,” perhaps they should pay for higher rates to offset those costs, he added.
Martindale said rates are too high, but people don’t understand what’s on their bill. Part of it is people don’t understand what they see on the bill, all the taxes and fees.
“It’s an education issue,” he said.
“Green energy is expensive to start up, solar, wind,” he said. “However, long term, it does take things down.”
He added he’s not saying to jump into it all at once. Martindale said the BPU could work a little faster without hiking rates. The community has to get on board, and the community solar program is a good start, he added.
There was no primary in the BPU, at large Position 2, contest.